Sup­port grows to add homes by tran­sit hubs

San Francisco Chronicle - - BAY AREA - By Do­minic Fra­cassa

San Fran­cis­cans ap­pear to be warm­ing to the idea of build­ing denser hous­ing around tran­sit hubs, an is­sue that has proved to be di­vi­sive in the city and across the Bay Area.

An an­nual state-of-the-city poll com­mis­sioned by the San Fran­cisco Cham­ber of Com­merce re­vealed that 74 per­cent of the sur­vey’s 500 re­spon­dents supported a state bill that would, among other things, pre­vent cities from re­strict­ing apart­ment con­struc­tion within a half mile of a tran­sit sta­tion, like BART or Cal­train.

Though it wasn’t men­tioned by name, the poll was ask­ing re­spon­dents about SB50, a bill by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Fran­cisco.

The sur­vey re­sults could sug­gest a shift in the city’s sen­ti­ment to­ward in­creas­ing den­sity around tran­sit hubs, a move that pro­po­nents have long held is es­sen­tial for a city and a re­gion

tor­mented by traf­fic con­ges­tion and a pun­ish­ing hous­ing short­age. Prom­i­nent of­fi­cials at the lo­cal and state lev­els, in­clud­ing Mayor London Breed and Gov. Gavin New­som, have also struck a strong pro-hous­ing stance, which could be help­ing to em­pha­size de­vel­op­ment.

The sur­vey framed the bill’s pur­pose as adding hous­ing around tran­sit stops “so people could live closer to where they work.” Ac­cord­ing to the cham­ber’s poll, 82 per­cent of re­spon­dents said traf­fic in the city had wors­ened, 69 per­cent said park­ing is harder to find, and 63 per­cent said it is harder to find hous­ing for people like them­selves.

Crit­ics of the bill, how­ever, blanch at the prospect of sur­ren­der­ing lo­cal con­trol to the state and ex­press deep con­cerns about how new de­vel­op­ments could dis­tort neigh­bor­hood char­ac­ter. Twenty per­cent of re­spon­dents said they “some­what” or “strongly” op­posed the bill, and 6 per­cent said they ei­ther didn’t know, or pre­ferred not to state their opin­ion.

The cham­ber will re­lease the full re­sults of the poll, which acts as a barom­e­ter of people’s at­ti­tudes on a range of city is­sues, in­clud­ing home­less­ness, pub­lic trans­porta­tion, Tues­day morn­ing.

The leg­is­la­tion also raises height lim­its to 45 feet, about four sto­ries, within a half-mile of the sta­tion, and 55 feet within a quar­ter mile. It also elim­i­nates min­i­mum park­ing re­quire­ments for new de­vel­op­ments, a move that the San Fran­cisco Board of Su­per­vi­sors is con­sid­er­ing on its own.

“All the polls I’ve ever seen on this show strong sup­port, but this is strong­est,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Fran­cisco. “I’m thrilled to see pub­lic opin­ion con­tinue to shift in a pro-hous­ing di­rec­tion. At some point you reach a break­ing point.”

Notably, sup­port for the bill was spread out fairly evenly across the city’s su­per­vi­so­rial dis­tricts, ac­cord­ing to the poll’s re­sults. The city’s west­ern dis­tricts — pop­u­lated largely by en­claves of sin­gle-fam­ily homes — have long been the cen­ter of op­po­si­tion to new de­vel­op­ments in the city.

But Dis­trict Four, which in­cludes the Sun­set, had the high­est per­cent­age of re­spon­dents say they “strongly” or “some­what” supported the bill — the most of any dis­trict.

SB50 rep­re­sents a lighter ver­sion of leg­is­la­tion Wiener in­tro­duced last year. That bill, SB827, would have kept cities from re­ject­ing four- to eight­story apart­ments or con­dos near tran­sit hubs.

The bill ex­posed tran­si­to­ri­ented hous­ing as a ma­jor fault line in San Fran­cisco pol­i­tics, and ul­ti­mately couldn’t get out of the Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee, where it was killed by a 5-4 vote.

It drew strong op­po­si­tion from lo­cal lead­ers, most of whom supported tran­sit-ori­ented hous­ing, but crit­i­cized the bill for not ex­act­ing enough con­ces­sions from de­vel­op­ers and warned that new de­vel­op­ment would lead to fur­ther gen­tri­fi­ca­tion and dis­place­ment of mid­dle-class and low­in­come com­mu­ni­ties.

San Fran­cisco’s Board of Su­per­vi­sors voted 8-3 to op­pose the mea­sure.

“Liv­ing where you work is im­por­tant to main­tain­ing a strong econ­omy for the en­tire Bay Area,” said Ju­liana Bu­nim, se­nior vice pres­i­dent at the cham­ber, which supported Wiener’s SB827 and his cur­rent bill.

“Ev­ery­day we hear from our mem­bers how their em­ploy­ees can’t af­ford to live here and are be­ing forced to leave. It’s time to talk about what real so­lu­tions are for hous­ing and not get dis­tracted by a cou­ple of loud voices that can drown out what people ac­tu­ally want across the city.”

Chron­i­cle staff writer Rachel Swan

con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Paul Kuroda / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle

More people sup­port dense hous­ing con­struc­tion near tran­sit hubs such as S.F.’s Glen Park BART Sta­tion, a poll com­mis­sioned by the San Fran­cisco Cham­ber of Com­merce re­veals.

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